Skip to main content

By Erika Wheless | April 23, 2024.

The sandwich chain seeks specialized talent after parting ways with TRG

This marks the first time Firehouse Subs has opted for a multi-agency approach.

Firehouse Subs has opted for a multi-agency approach after parting ways with TRG in March.

Orchard is the brand’s new lead creative agency and PHD will handle media. Quality Meats will work on activations and partnerships. Merchandising will be handled by 500 Degrees and Jones Knowles Ritchie takes on lead design agency duties, while ICR has PR. The assignments cover the U.S. and Canada.

TRG had handled most of those functions. But the sandwich chain now wants to call on a broader array of talent as it looks to better differentiate its offerings—including its hot subs—amid a sea of sandwich chain competition. It marks the first time Jacksonville, Florida-based Firehouse Subs has moved beyond a single agency since its founding in 1994.

“We are taking a more specialized approach to have a broader ecosystem, but now we have the best of the best,” Dena vonWerssowetz, Firehouse Subs’ chief marketing officer, said in an interview. “We have such high awareness for the footprint of the brand, but we have an opportunity when it comes to penetration and driving trial. Our subs are hot, and that is really distinctive in our category, so how can we leverage that and tell our story?”

Firehouse Subs spent $36 million on measured media in 2023, up from $26 million in 2022, according to Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics. Firehouse Subs ranked 50th in Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2023 restaurant rankings, which are based on system-wide domestic sales from the previous year. Competitors include Jimmy John’s (41), Jersey Mike’s (34) and Subway (8).

Firehouse Subs is owned by Restaurant Brands International, whose holdings include Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons. Omnicom Group-owned PHD in 2022 won U.S. media for Burger King and Popeyes, as well as U.S. and Canadian media for Tim Hortons.

500 Degrees and ICR also currently work for RBI.  For the fourth quarter of 2023, Firehouse Subs’ comparable sales were up 3.5%, compared with 5.5% growth at Popeyes and a 6.3% gain at Burger King.

Firehouse has aggressive growth plans, aiming to add 800 net new restaurants in the U.S. and Canada by 2028. The chain now has 1,200 mostly franchised locations across 46 U.S. states, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

The agency review was led by Select Resources International and lasted two and a half months. Over 20 agencies were involved in the pitch. Firehouse Subs declined to share the names of agencies that participated. TRG did not defend the account. The agency, formerly known as The Richards Group, had held the account since 2016. The loss of the Firehouse account follows losses of Stellantis and Credit One Bank.

Read the Full Story at